Roving for good with the Holgates and the new Land Rover Defender
It hit me that in my four years in the industry, I had never been behind the wheel of a Land Rover. So when the opportunity came to go on a three-day expedition to the Free State and beyond, in one of their most talked-about cars at present, there was no thinking twice.
The new Defender was launched earlier this year and the buzz around its revival remains strong. Utilitarian and with a rugged appeal, the name is steeped in charm and history.
It demands respect – and most will agree that the designers succeeded in modernising the classic philosophy that earned the old one its stripes.
Our trip began with the dreaded red-eye flight out of Johannesburg to the Bloemfontein airport, where we would take collection of our Defender fleet and start the journey. The destination for our first leg of the trip was Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve, a farm-style lodge with views of spectacular sunsets that sink behind a range of mountains.
Getting there took us far off the beaten path. As tough as the Defender may be, there is a remarkable smoothness to its ride quality. I took the wheel of the P400 that packs 294kW and 523Nm thanks to a turbocharged 3.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine.
The comfort in the cabin is superb, even on the harshest of roads. No, really. I generally have a dislike for driving on gravel – but the suppleness and insulation afforded by the Defender made conquering gravel a cinch.
Extensive off-roading put the pneumatic suspension and Terrain Response system to work. How extensive? The one-wheel-midair type!
Fellow journalist Brendon Staniforth of Maroela Media praised the heroic manner in which I slayed challenging obstacles, but the truth is, the car does all the work on your behalf.
What was even more impressive was that it was laden with luggage, camera equipment and, most importantly, 15 bags of food for our special activity on day two.
The larger purpose of this trip was to join father and son duo, Kingsley and Ross Holgate on their Mzansi Edge expedition. They set off to follow the entire land border of SA and track the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines, along with a circumnavigation of landlocked Lesotho, to deliver humanitarian aid to rural communities.
Now, if you’ve seen the charismatic Kingsley Holgate, you would know he is a real-life Father Christmas in adventurer’s attire, wielding a stick, and a map. Kingsley is a wealth of knowledge, with decades’ worth of exploration, centred on helping communities on the continent.
We were deeply honoured to be joining on the mission, visiting two schools located in Clarens. As we arrived, the pupils erupted in song and dance, welcoming us with faces of hope and joy. Even through the hardships of poverty, worsened by the effects of Covid-19, they were ready to give us the warmest greeting.
Bra Kingsley speaks fluent isiZulu and asked if I could translate his words to the pupils who predominantly speak seSotho. At this moment I felt my heart burst at the feeling of giving to and interacting with these pupils.
Being of help, even in the smallest ways, to a face that receives with a warm smile and sincere eyes is the drug that must fuel the Holgate family to continuously seek ways to be philanthropic.
Our last day was spent taking in more of the South African landscape as we drove in convoy towards KwaZulu-Natal. Heads turned, phones snapped away and cars moved to the left as we dominated the roads heading to Pietermarizburg airport.
My takeaway from the trip? We live in a beautiful country – with a promising, young generation of people who need to be nurtured.